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How Important Are the Opinions of Experts in the Search for Knowledge?

Autor:   •  December 3, 2013  •  Essay  •  281 Words (2 Pages)  •  886 Views

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We live in a society today where areas of knowledge are becoming increasingly complex. Subjects such as particle physics, medical radiology or microbiology would be almost incomprehensible without significant study. So there is a growing need to seek the opinions of experts. But how important are they and what are their strengths and limitations?

First consider what constitutes an opinion. Essentially, it is a suggestion that is not conclusive. Opinions differ from facts in that they are an interpretation. Depending on the area or field, they may involve logic and emotion, careful observation (perception), discussion (language), or a combination of these ways of knowing. Some opinions are derived mainly from a knowledge base and analysing a set of evidence, whilst others are primarily centred on intuitive feelings.

What then, is an expert? And how can we define expertise? For the most part, expertise is gauged from a combination of knowledge, experience, skill and qualifications. For instance, a trained heart surgeon would be considered an expert for they would have a medical degree (qualifications) implying an understanding of the human body (knowledge) and practice in conducting surgeries (skill and experience). Experts are only experts within and according to the paradigm that they operate in. To be considered an expert, one must derive their expertise from the knowledge base of the paradigm. For instance, a physics professor would be considered an expert in physics insofar as their knowledge comes from a good grounding in accepted scientific theories and methods.

However, the problems of this description lie in the subjective nature of expertise. Whilst expertise, to a degree, can be classified objectively on qualifications and tests, there will always be a subjective element to it


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